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Microsteris gracilis
Microsteris gracilis
Microsteris gracilis (Slender Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Above: Mavericks Trail, Boggy Draw, May 3, 2016.
Left: Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 1, 2006.

This tiny work of art is an early spring bloomer found in scattered patches, and, as the photograph above indicates, in huge numbers. In Sagebrush and Oak woodlands you will find it scattered; in moist clearings, you may find it by the thousands. 

Microsteris gracilis frequently grows in the company of Collinsia parviflora (Blue-Eyed Mary).  Microsteris gracilis is often much easier to spot by its red basal leaves than by its very tiny white flowers.  The basal leaves might be taken for berries until you get down on your knees or belly. That's where we need to be to take in much of floral beauty.

 

Microsteris gracilis
Microsteris gracilis (Slender Phlox)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Foothills. Openings, woodlands. Spring.
Prater Ridge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, May 1, 2006.

Seeds from Microsteris gracilis were collected by David Douglas (of Douglas Fir fame) near "the banks of the Spoken River, and on high grounds near the Flathead River" (Quote from Intermountain Flora). Douglas' seeds were sent back to England where they were sprouted, deemed a new species, and in 1829 William Jackson Hooker named the new species Gilia gracilis. The plant has gone through numerous genus and species name changes since then. Edward Greene gave the presently accepted genus and species name in 1898.  "Microsteris" is Greek for "small stem" and "gracilis" is Latin for "slender".

 

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Microsteris gracilis